As a Birmingham student, you are joining the academic elite and have the privilege of learning from world-leading experts in their fields. Learning here at the Law School is research-led, drawing upon the expertise of staff to provide excellent teaching. We regard teaching and research as inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing. Our staff are frequent participants in legal debates and contribute regularly to the policy-making process.
Our teaching reflects original thought and insight which has helped to shape the contours of the discipline of law. Respondents to the National Student Survey have acknowledged the enthusiasm of our staff and their ability to explain things clearly and make material intellectually stimulating. We encourage all our students to challenge us and draw their own conclusions.
Central to Learning and Teaching in the Law School at the University of Birmingham is critical enquiry, debate and self-motivation, summed up by the term enquiry-based learning.
Enquiry-based learning describes an environment in which learning is driven by the shared enquiry of students and tutors. This approach will enable you to take control of your own learning as you progress through your degree. Moreover, it will encourage you to acquire essential skills that are highly valued in the competitive employment sector: creativity, independence, team-working, goal-setting and problem-solving. Enquiry-based learning places you at the centre of your own learning process so that you learn through involvement and ownership and not simply by listening.
What you can expect?
Throughout your Law degree you can expect about 13 hours of contact time per week made up of approximately ten hours of lectures and three hours of seminars. During your first year you will undergo a formal transition review to see how you are getting on and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.
Lectures are an important method of teaching used in the School, intended to provide a structured framework for learning and dispensing essential knowledge. They won't tell you all you need to know, but they should help you to navigate the reading you're expected to undertake to pursue your studies effectively. A good lecture can be an eye-opening and mind-broadening experience.
Seminars are smaller group classes, which involve the development and testing of ideas in discussion, with a high degree of student input. A successful class is one in which the module teacher says very little, intervening only to comment, steer and occasionally inform or correct.
Seminars are not ‘mini-lectures’. In all seminars you are expected to be prepared and to participate. They provide a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas, and all students are expected to be able to participate actively. This is tremendously important at university level and will help you to clarify and extend your understanding of the topics you are studying, as well as develop confidence in expressing yourself orally.
Seminars in law also provide an opportunity to learn the difficult but vital skill of applying the law to factual situations. This is assessed in exams through ‘problem questions’. For your seminars directed to this skill you will be given the facts of problem questions in advance, and you devote time to working out your own answers beforehand, then testing those answers in argument during the seminar.
Birmingham Law School uses a variety of methods to assess student performance, this includes exams, essays and dissertations. At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study.
- Examinations take place in the summer term (May/June) and core modules are typically assessed by a 3-hour exam with optional modules assessed by a 2-hour exam. There are no January exams at Birmingham Law School.
- Essays vary in length (1000-4000 words) depending on whether the essay is only part of the assessment for the subject or whether the subject is assessed 100% by essay.
- Dissertations are individual research projects into a specific topic and vary in length (up to 10,000 words) depending on the credit value of the subject which is being assessed by dissertation.
A number of prizes are available for outstanding performance in assessments at the end of each academic year. Many of these prizes are sponsored by law firms across the UK.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.
Developing skills and enhancing academic performance is a key part of a university education and the Law School provide feedback on your work throughout your degree. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. To enhance the student learning experience, the Law School provides the following:
- Individual feedback on academic performance is provided during progress review meetings with your personal tutor throughout the year.
- All academic members of staff will have feedback and office hours during which you can see them without prior appointment and speak to them on a 1-1 basis to discuss feedback or other academic support you may require.
- Individual feedback on both assessed and non-assessed essays within four weeks of submission. This feedback will cover
- What was done well
- What was not done well
- How the above relate to the mark achieved and the marking criteria
- What could be done to improve the next piece of work.
- Generic feedback on examination papers will be offered to students following the publication of results in June each year.
- In addition to generic feedback, individual feedback is offered to all students who have failed and are entitled to re-sit the examination.
Legal Skills Advisory Service (LSAS)
In addition to the feedback you will receive from academic staff, our Legal Skills Advisory Service will help you develop skills particular to studying law. We run daily drop-in sessions and weekly workshops open to all undergraduate Law students. LSAS will help you to develop skills which are crucial to legal study. Workshops include:
How to prepare for seminars and lectures
How to answer essay and problem questions
How to read cases and articles
How to learn from feedback and tackling common mistakes
How to manage your time effectively
How to prepare for exams